Dr Hassin Yasin

Welcome to an enlightening conversation between Sean O’Neill and Dr. Hassan Yasin, where we dive deep into the complexities of mental health in today’s rapidly evolving world. Dr. Yasin, a distinguished psychiatrist with a keen focus on child and adolescent psychiatry, shares his insights on the critical differences between psychiatry and psychology, the monumental impact of the first few years of a child’s life, and the challenges and opportunities presented by modern society and technology.

Exploring the Mind and Society with Dr. Hassan Yasin and Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill: I don’t have access to daily social media, I don’t have access to daily news, I don’t have access to a lot of what goes on in the world.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Why is that?

Sean O’Neill: For my own mental health.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: The love has to be there, regardless.

Sean O’Neill: Oh, I always got a slap as well. It came in equal doses.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: You can’t fire your kids. So that’s a — That’s one thing that’s probably different from kids and employees.

Sean O’Neill: Doctor Hassan, welcome!

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Hi!

Sean O’Neill: Now, you’re a doctor in psychiatry?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: I am.

Sean O’Neill: And probably one of the first questions is, what is the difference between psychiatry and psychology?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Good question. So a psychiatrist is someone that’s been to medical school, qualified as a doctor, and then specialized in the field of psychiatry, so we can prescribe medication, we treat mental illness and often lean towards a pharmacological way of treating mental illness, whereas a psychologist is very much about the understanding of the human mind and human behavior as a field of science on its own. 

In the field that I work in, we often do a bit of both. So you’ve got to be kind of quite psychologically minded and have a good understanding of the whole person to be able to think about what treatment they might need, where pharmacology is probably an aspect of that.

Sean O’Neill: And what brought you to psychiatry?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Well, my late father was a psychiatrist, God rest his soul, and it was actually 18 years ago today, as it happens. Yeah. And I guess I was interested in the idea of being a doctor broadly. And then once I qualified as a doctor, I realized that understanding how people worked, why they did what they did, what motivated people to behave, how they behave, and to try and make a material difference in people’s lives and changing the trajectory of their lives was interesting to me. And so I went down that road and I’ve been working with young people, child and adolescent psychiatry now for a few years.

Sean O’Neill: And was there a reason that you’ve gone down the road of working with children?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah, I think when I was training, I realized I was quite good at it. I could connect with young people, but also from a reward level. On a reward level, it was interesting because you. You could change the trajectory of a young person’s life by a couple of degrees, but then where they end up is vastly different from where they were going, because you can change that trajectory early on. And so you find that actually, you do make a difference. You actually can impact someone’s life and see a transformation happen over a period of months or years where, because you’ve been involved, something positive can happen.

Sean O’Neill: From my understanding, the first seven years of a children’s life is some of the most important years, and it’s called the imprint era. Could you elaborate on that?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah, I mean, so a child, broadly speaking, the first few years of their life, that’s when they develop their entire worldview. They’ll realize, you know, kind of whether they’ll perform opinions on whether the world’s safe, unsafe, whether some of the core beliefs about themselves start to get formed. And they’ll see the world through the caregiver’s eyes for those first few years. So they form those beliefs not kind of as an isolated bubble, but often through the people that are around them. And so that’s why those first few years are really crucial in kind of the formation of personality and in the formation of worldview for a young person.

Sean O’Neill: The belief is now that in some ways, we’re living in one of the greatest times for human civilization, but also one of the most challenging. What’s your view on how we live now, and does it have an impact that can enhance a child’s quality of life, or is there also detrimental effects to how we live our modern life?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: There’s a lot to unpick there, I guess. I guess it all depends on definitions, right? So the greatest era of human history. I guess it would depend on how we’re defining the greatest era, certainly the most technologically advanced era of human history, as far as we know, which has a lot of upside in terms of the potential impact on people’s lives, the potential quality of life, improvements that it can have. 

But we’ve also seen a lot of side effects. We’ve seen what happens when society goals start shifting and how that has an impact on everyone in society, but not least the young people in society. So it’s probably not coincidental that we’re seeing the highest number of mental health rates in young people that we’ve ever seen, you know, the highest number of cases of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders that we’ve ever seen. I don’t think there’s probably one single factor that’s causing it. But if we’re going to take a helicopter view of what we’re doing, I think there’s probably as much doing wrong as we are right, and probably someone needs to take a look at how we’re doing it.

Sean O’Neill: I think digital seems to get a bad rap for everybody, seems to point the finger at iPhones, iPads, television, lack of exercise. But is there an upside to the digital side of our modern life?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Of course there is. I mean, this idea that we should demonize something or make it kind of a heavenly object is ridiculous. I think, like anything, it has upsides and downsides. And like anything, what we’ve probably not done is figured out how we can teach kids the rules of how to use a tool like that. Much the same way that, you know, I have a one year old at home, and I teach him, if there’s a sharp object, how you might want to kind of not touch it until he gets older. And then when my six year old wants to cut tomatoes, I have to guide her about how to use the knife and the sharp object. I can’t therefore say knives are bad, but I can’t say that, you know, they’re absolutely good all the time either. 

I think technology is much the same. I think if we have systems that we allow young people to develop the resources mentally to be able to use technology in a good way, then it’s probably overwhelmingly good. But what ended up happening was technology came along, none of us knew what to do with it, and then suddenly it was in everyone’s hand in an uncontrolled way. And it still is kind of in a runaway uncontrolled way. 

And what we’re seeing is a lot of detrimental elements to kind of social media and technology, as well as multiple good ones. And I think what’s happening now is probably the catching up starting to take place. So there’s a lot of companies and a lot of entrepreneurs that are trying to figure out how we can now use technology to catch up, to use it as a tool that can actually end up benefiting not just young people, but obviously that’s where that’s the main focus of what I interested in.

Sean O’Neill: Is there, like, a common theme with the children that come to your practice? Is there, like, the top three or top five things that seems to be most common in them? And does that stem from background or maybe having too much or having too little?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: I probably won’t say that there’s a theme of mental illness that stems directly from technology. I think that’s probably a stretch.

Sean O’Neill: But I mean, like everyday life that the kids come to you, is there a theme that maybe their parents are struggling or maybe their parents have so much that they don’t know?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah, I think every individual case is different, but we see a lot of anxiety cases now. Like, we’re inundated with kids that have anxiety, were inundated with kids that have low mood and depression. I think those are the two things that we see an awful lot of COVID probably contributed a great deal to how kids are struggling at the moment. We’re seeing a lot of kids that are struggling to get into school and kind of become school refusers. And then that’s a combination of anxiety. There’s a huge number of kids now that have been diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and ADHD. 

And because they’re diagnosed, you know, there’s that many kids now that have those conditions. It’s probably time we reevaluate how we do things like education. It’s probably time that we reevaluate how we do things like what the markers are that we expect kids to adhere to, or what the markers are that tells that a kid’s functioning well or not. 

So a lot of times kids might come to us because they’re struggling to get into school. And the question really is, well, is school the right environment for the kid? Like, you know, schools haven’t changed for 100 years plus, but everything else in society has. Everything else in the kids world has changed. 

And if a child has, say, a neurodevelopmental condition like autism, a school environment might not be the best place for that child to learn and to get educated in a way that sets them up for what they want to do for the rest of their life. So I think there’s a lot of broader questions about what can we do as a society to start kind of reevaluating what we do for young people. 

The answer is, you said, why does it happen? I think one of the things that has happened in society is that the makeup or the dynamic within families has changed massively over the past 30, 50 years. I think it’s almost unheard of to have a single parent working kind of household with one income. Most households now need two incomes just to survive. And then when that happens, there’s obviously a gap where the raising of the children has to be done somewhere, somehow. And so if that gets outsourced more and more to schools or to whatever local authority systems that we outsource them to, there’s obviously going to be a consequence to that. 

So I think, yeah, there’s a lot of big, broad issues that are happening that I think need to be addressed and dealt with. And I don’t think we need to just accept that there’s just a mental health crisis. We almost look at it the wrong way around, don’t we? We come in and go, well, one in five kids has a mental health condition in any given year. And we start as if that’s the baseline and let’s figure out what to do next. Now that we know that actually, shouldn’t we say, how have we created a society where one in five kids has a mental health condition in every any given year? I think that’s….

Sean O’Neill: Is it not the case we labeled something that as a human being, we’re not perfect, we’re all flawed? And possibly the awareness of it, it is so apparent I can only bring my own personal circumstances in. But as a kid I went to school and I was on the receiving end of some sort of bullying. Now I wouldn’t say it was at the scale that needed to be reported or it truly affected me, but it was a horrible place to be in. 

As a teenager, I went through my own difficult times. Again, it’s probably down to the individual, or possibly I was strong enough to see through those times. As a 20 year old, there’s been extremely dark days where I’ve needed good people around me to show me some love, show me some attention, someone to speak to. 

Is it fair if you put the word crisis or certain label it with something? Do you not believe that can then trigger? Because the word crisis is scary for me and I would feel that if we said that one in five kids, one in five adults are messed up, but so are all humans and that’s the starting point to live. I have a feeling that whenever I lowered my expectations on life, I woke up and I was a little bit more happier because I didn’t expect for it to be so perfect. 

For me personally and I think definitely I believe that it’s individual’s ability along with the correct people to help them. But I think it’s more difficult when you have a complete umbrella approach to something that must be defined as an individual trying to become the best version of themselves.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Sure. I think mental wellness isn’t the absence of negative emotion though. So mental wellness doesn’t mean that I’m going to be happy every day. And this is the nonsense that’s being spouted all over social media is that, you know, you live your best life and, you know, kind of in a state of peace and tranquility every day. And that of course is nonsense. Mental wellness is the ability to experience negative emotion, but have the skillset to navigate it in a healthy way.

So things happen in life that make you upset, things happen in life that make you stressed or anxious. And if you have kind of, if you’re in a space where you’re mentally well, then you’ll be able to navigate those difficulties in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you or consume you. What happens with things like anxiety disorders is that can start with that, but then that spreads into every facet of someone’s life, into a point where the level of function is no longer what it could have been or anywhere near what it should be.

So I agree. I think what you described there is someone who’s actually probably quite resilient and mentally well, and despite experiencing difficult times, has found the kind of the fortitude and resilience to work through that and come out the other side. And that’s sometimes what young people need as that support. 

It’s interesting as well, what you said about kind of lowering your expectations with life, because I think, I don’t know if you’re familiar with Mo Godat. He’s the ex-director of Google X, chief operating officer or something of Google X. And so he wrote a book called Solve for Happy. And in solve for happy, he describes how he had a devastating life experience of the death of his 18 year old son, and then used that experience to come up with an equation, I guess, for happiness, broadly speaking, being happiness is where the expectation meets what your expectation of life is. Meets what life is. It’s about you bringing down and coming down to an expectation that you can live with and not overshoot so that you are always disappointed or anxious or low. It’s a nice enough kind of equation, not all encompassing, but it’s interesting that you thought that as well.

Sean O’Neill: I had a seminar recently, and I was very fortunate it coincided with my mum being in Liverpool. So we spent an hour and a half going through various topics, asking me questions and trying to delve down into who the real Sean O’Neill is. It went very well and it was an authentic night. And after it was, quite a number of people went to my mum, you know, to be nice, to say, you must be proud. 

And there was one question she was asked, and I didn’t know this to quite some time after one mother asked my mom, how did you create such a great son? And she said, I just did my best and I trade them with love. And I found out, you know, weeks later, I heard the story. But that’s one thing that I think for me personally has got me through all the difficult times, is, as you said before, the support will my support network be was people around me that genuinely cared and showed me love or showed me support when I needed it. 

So the common theme for me is that although all of these difficult times in my life have happened and going through them, it was probably a time for me to say, why me? Why me? But what me got through what. What helped me get through them was the support and love that people showed for me. I didn’t realize that when I was a child, or even a teenager, apart from when I needed the hug, you would just automatically go back to that. And when you get that feeling that there’s somebody there to support you and give you a hug, it brings back memories of, it was okay.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. There’s a lot of literature on that. There’s a book called why Love matters by a psychologist. I forget her name now. And the psychiatrist Gaba mate talks about this a lot, about the importance of love in the first few years of a child’s life. Specifically unconditional as well. So a lot of the time, parents mistake, given the affection in return for when you’ve been good or when you’ve done the thing that I’ve asked you to do, and that can actually backfire a little bit. 

So for anyone listening, it’s all about the kind of the unconditional love. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to bad behavior or kind of things that you don’t want, but the love has to be there regardless.

Sean O’Neill: Oh, I always got a slap as well. It came in equal doses.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So where do you think then? Let me ask you for a second then. So you had the love, and you had some difficult times. At what point did you decide, actually, I want to go and make something of myself. Was that always there as long as you can remember, or was there a moment where you went?

Sean O’Neill: My first memory, my childhood memory, was being on the back of a tractor, a Massey 35. And it took us about 45 minutes to get to the concrete yard. And as I come home, I remember thinking, I really don’t want to be on the back of a tractor for 45 minutes. I wanted to be doing something more fun. 

And slowly, the next few years of memory merged that everybody in the countryside or on the farm was poor. They worked from morning to night. My grandmother, God rest her, would always scream at me every time I got up to turn the lights off and close the door to keep the heating in. And it became an element of almost torture for me to go into the house, because I thought, if I go in, I’m going to be told, close the doors, keep the heating in, turn off the life. Save, save, save. Efficient. Be efficient. Don’t waste your food. There was just a never ending amount of rules to try and make ends meet either. 

And then would be party to the stories in the evenings, how people unfortunately passed away on the farm of malnutrition. My great auntie, you know, left the farm and went to America, never to be seen again to try and get a new life. And although I had this support, which you don’t understand, as a child, I also had this terrible fear that I was going to end up like everyone around me. 

And I remember as a child, I used to stand up and my nan would say, close the door behind you. It was an automatic reaction to save the heating. Okay? They worked so hard, so every bit of waste of energy or heating or electricity cost money. And I screamed at her and I said, when I’m older, I’m going to turn the heating on and leave the lights on and make more money than you’ve ever dreamt about. And slammed the door behind her and walked out. And I think I screamed again and said, leave me alone. And I was just driven to find a way out of the form. 

Now, that was my drive, and that is my fear. And that was within the first seven years of my life. As a 42 year old, I’m still coming to terms that actually everything is okay. I’ve made more money than I’ve ever dreamed of. I am pretty financially stable, and it’s unlikely I’m going to go back to the 1950s, 60s style, where times were that tough. Is it fear that I still have in my bones at a cellular level, that I’m aware that if emotions. There’s a great saying, 

“If emotions are buried, they’ll come with you to the day of your funeral”.

And I’m aware that deep down in there, there’s still emotions of mine from a very young age. It is also coupled with huge respect and huge thanks that those lessons have helped me become the person that I am today.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And is it only fear of the lights going out? Because that doesn’t seem enough to keep driving you, because once the lights are on, why wasn’t that enough?

Sean O’Neill: Like, what else was missing? It probably goes down to me wanting to be independent and not having anybody else. Being an only child, having two parents that maybe don’t say eye to eye. Then I felt that the only person I had was my nan. And what does she know? She’s old. I soon realized as I got older that she was probably one of the wisest people I could ever meet. But there was a quest for independence that I would have my — I would be in charge of my own destiny and do it in my own way. What happened then became a roller coaster ride that is probably I’m still on and away, but I feel like maybe I’m in charge of the roller coaster a little bit more. There was ups and downs of life that when I look back, there were really difficult times. 

But after my initial childhood, my teenage years, and all of the ups and downs were my doing. The early years, I had very little control of. But the ups and downs from going to secondary school and on was — And to this day, is all my doing. I’m fully aware of that.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay, so what keeps you going, then? Because again, you said that you set this thing that you want to be independent and you want to have kind of no one have any control over you or your life, but you’re still working, you’re still trying. You’re still trying to grow. So what’s that coming from?

Sean O’Neill: And that’s a good question. Now, I would feel that I’ve spent decades trying to figure out who I am, trying to figure out the recipe for success that I have and trying to fine tune it. And it would be unfair to not finish off the recipe and bake the perfect cake. And if I can do that, I’ll be then able to handle part of it over to my business partners in mentorship programs through how I will coach.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay. And is the perfect cake a thing that’s kind of an abstract concept in your head now, or do you know what it is?

Sean O’Neill: Well, I, that deep emotion will still be there, but. But I do now know that I have a very solid recipe for success. And the recipe is that I’m probably not afraid to fail anymore because I’ve failed so many times. The only difference with possibly me and, you know, the mass of people is I’ve done so many things, so I failed a hundred times more than most people, and I’ve maybe succeeded.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So it’s the tenacity to keep going.

Sean O’Neill: It’s just the constant of not being afraid to take a downturn.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Or what have you sacrificed on this journey? Because you said you’re 42, you’ve accomplished an awful lot, but are the things that you wish that you may have in your life that you don’t because of that drive that you’ve had, where you’ve been so singularly focused on demonstrating, I guess, to yourself, to the world that you can reach this thing that you’re aiming for? What’s the cost of that?

Sean O’Neill: I think any sacrifice that I’ve had is able to be achievable in the future. I think there’s lessons, possibly a really strong understanding of peace of mind, being able to be resilient and go through tough times. The appreciation for things in my life that I wouldn’t have had if it came easier.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay, so, but, like, kind of, what is it that when you’re on your deathbed and people are gathered around, people are going to be, like, talking about you and saying, oh, no, it’s devastating that you’re about to go. What would you want people to be saying at that point? Because what you talked about a lot is obviously a lot of the things that you’ve achieved for yourself financially and internally. But I wonder whether there’s any other drive about externally and whether anything external of you has had to be put on the back burner to achieve those things.

Sean O’Neill: Will you give up a lot of time?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yep.

Sean O’Neill: The only thing is with giving up time through the quest for understanding myself. I’m a very dopaminergic person. I crave excitement and I crave challenges. If I was not to do what I was doing, it could go down another path that maybe wouldn’t be so. I could go down another path that maybe wouldn’t be so promising or could end up leading me in a worse position. So I really don’t have any regrets. I just know that I have to. I really don’t have any regrets. I just know there has to be some sort of sacrifice. If you go to the gym and you pump your muscles, there’s a sacrifice there to get bigger muscles. If you stay in the office long hours, there has to be a sacrifice to achieve something. 

So I’m okay with the sacrifice. I just know that there needs to be a bit of rest, recovery, enjoyment, and maybe find out more about yourself along the way, because we evolve. What I want now in my forties is not what I wanted in my twenties.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: No, of course not.

Sean O’Neill: I got everything in my twenties I think, that I wanted because it was very focused on a goal. I just didn’t expect the repercussions of getting what I wanted.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Because you mentioned the dopamine hits that you search for and long for, and that kind of addiction to feeling like you’re doing something productive that can happen, or feeling like you’re making progress when we’re not always making progress, but we can, at least if we’re doing the thing that makes us feel like it, then we can sometimes get sucked up in that and we can just kind of lie to ourselves a little bit that we’re making progress when we’re not. Does that happen to you?

Sean O’Neill: All the time. But what I found is that. And I’ve learned that the goal, when I achieved my goal, that was not. It was the quest, it was the doing, it was the journey before it. That is my driver.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And if you had to sacrifice things like personal relationships, friendships, obviously, you know, kind of.

Sean O’Neill: I probably sacrificed my sleep a lot to cram so much in. I probably sacrificed. I’m sure I’ve lost a few years of life along the way with stress, long hours, commitments. Absolutely. I had to be quite selfish at times with the relationships.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: What about romantic relationships? Have they suffered along the way? Because obviously with your drive and your focus on what you need to achieve, has that meant that that area of your life.

Sean O’Neill: I do know that there was an element of being removed from the emotions.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: What do you mean by that?

Sean O’Neill: Where the dream scenario is that you would just fall madly in love and let your emotions get carried away with you. Where I was very sort of structured of there’s a point that I wouldn’t cross and maybe just the commitment that you’re going to be together forever. And this story of living happily ever after was something that didn’t allow into my daily thoughts so much. 

So maybe my relationships earlier on were more transactional, like business. But I’ve learned along the way that definitely isn’t something. I think the story of Mick Jagger is a great one. He’s at over 4000 girlfriends or partners, but it’s a great one. Well, it’s one that tells you a lesson that if you keep on that path, will you ever get, as his song says, any satisfaction?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Well, no.

Sean O’Neill: Correct.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: He’s in a same thing that you were in with your work. He’s in a different way. And you can have that addiction and that short term kind of rush that you get meeting someone new and the dopamine and everything else. So I’m wondering whether…. Because obviously happily ever after is not a thing and there is an ever after and sometimes it’s happy and sometimes you gotta work on it. But is that something that you’ve focused on now?

Sean O’Neill: I’ve got an awareness of what’s best for me and so I’m also able to use the, instead of nature driving me more, the nurture and the education of what the driver and how I operate as a person. And I think that probably is difficult to bring in. Apart from giving the child the love, that’s probably something that you wouldn’t be able to bring into child is what to understand that there’s chemicals in your body driving you a certain way.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Sure. Yeah. I’m not sure that that’s what you. Yeah, you probably wouldn’t have that conversation with the child… 

Sean O’Neill: But could you have that with a parent?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: I don’t know how useful. I don’t know how useful that would be, maybe.

Sean O’Neill: So what drives you?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: I guess, like, everything is multifaceted. So I’ve got. I’m very blessed to have lovely home life with wife and kids, and that’s a core element of who I am and what I focused on for many years. But the other bit is I’m really, really passionate about kind of trying to make, as ridiculous as it sounds, kind of trying to make the world a better place by innovating, by using technology, developing apps, developing ideas, that through the experience and knowledge that I’ve accumulated with the work that I’ve done to try and apply that. 

So we touched earlier on the fact that we’ve got kind of this mental health crisis and the world is seemingly in disarray. I think partly that comes down to lack of emotional literacy. As a society, we’re not really taught emotional literacy.

Sean O’Neill: Big boys don’t cry.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. But I think emotional literacy would be that process of trying to identify what an emotion is. Because we don’t feel in words, do we? And you don’t really think in words, you just feel. And if you just feel, but you don’t name it, then it’s very difficult to process it. It’s very difficult to do anything with it. 

So the app that I’m developing, mood it, we developed a while back, and we’re doing a new version that’s really about upskilling people, to be able to identify what they’re feeling really easily and then share it with the world and about anything and everything everywhere. So whether that’s excitement over a football game, where you’ll be able to share how you feel really easily, it’s a mood slider, and then there’s a word cloud above it, and so it makes it really easy. So even if you’re not very emotionally literate, it’ll really help to.

Sean O’Neill: This is for all ages?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: For all ages, yeah. And then you’ll be able to see how other people feel about the thing that you’re interested in. And whether that’s, as I say, football or a news story or politics or world events, and people are okay generally with sharing thoughts and feelings online more so than ever. And what this does is it really kind of is a tool that can be applied everywhere so that people can do it really easily and then see how the world feels about it, too. 

So that’s a big driver at the moment. There’s a big element of education as well. And as I say, I work with kids that have autism a lot, and we touched on the school system earlier and how I think there needs to be an updated version of that. So I’m working with my CTO, who’s an AI expert, and we’re working on a model to try and bring education to 2024 in a different way, which I hope is going to be interesting for the world and can actually make an impact. 

So the driver for me really is trying to create something that outlives me, that my kids can look at me and go, that was really cool. You did something amazing there. Yeah, I’d like that to be something that I can leave behind. So I guess being able to produce something that has some kind of legacy effect is a big driver for me.

Sean O’Neill: And when did you discover this is something you’d like to do? Has it always been anything?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah, I think it’s always been. It’s always been there. I think even when I was studying to be a doctor, I was trying different things, entrepreneurial things. I’ve worked with different companies and I’ve had more failures than you can count as well along the way, which is fine part of the process. I think the idea of being a doctor and serving one patient at a time is really rewarding in one sense. But I’ve always loved the idea of scale. I’ve always loved the idea of having an impact at scale, and that’s something that, as a doctor, you don’t really get to do. 

So I’m hoping I can kind of get the best of both worlds where I do have that one to one impact with a young person, but also develop tools and systems that can have an impact at scale and genuinely have a kind of positive net footprint on humanity, I guess. 

Sean O’Neill: You come across as a very optimistic, happy person. Has there ever been a time where you had to dig deep and how did you get through those? 

Dr. Hassan Yasin: All the time. I don’t know that there’s optimism and having to dig deep are probably just two separate things. So I think having optimism that the world can be better, I guess, needs to be my default position, as a psychiatrist, it sees people that have gone through often terrible things, trauma and family breakdowns and all kinds of things like that. The default position that I’m in is just because it’s like this now doesn’t mean it can’t be better. And I think that applies to almost everything that we see in life at kind of whatever scale you want. 

And so, yeah, I don’t know that doom and gloom or vilifying things is a helpful way to operate when difficult times come. Yeah, you do have to dig deep. When difficult times come, it forces you to question your belief systems, which is always healthy. I think anyone that has a kind of flag in the sand and says, this is my belief system, full stop, that’s the end of the story, is probably not someone you need to listen to. 

So I think at any given moment, I can only tell you where I’m at right now based on the experience I’ve had, but on the understanding that I might be somewhere else in a year from now, in my understanding of things.

Sean O’Neill: So, currently, I don’t have any children, but I feel like I’ve got a big family of business partners, employees. A really good network of people that I care about and want them to be the best version of themselves. There’s been –There’s always a challenge in a workplace, and probably my best way of dealing with it, or the best way I see fit is to. To try and find out how I can be the best version of myself and then try and implement that through my learnings and then teachings. Is there anything that you see that could or any advice you could give to a workplace currently?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. So I think you can’t fire your kids. So that’s one thing that’s probably different from kids and the employees. Yeah. But I think being the best version of yourself is obviously a helpful thing for everyone around you. But being the best version of yourself is quite a complicated thing. 

So I think you’ve probably learned to do things like take on two quite contradictory emotional positions at the same time. And these are skills that I think everyone can learn. I call it the emotional superposition, where you can simultaneously have two what seem to be contradictory emotions at the same time, where I might be satisfied with who I am and what I’ve got, but at the same time, extremely hungry for.

Sean O’Neill: That’s me morning and night.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. So that’s something that you…

Sean O’Neill: Everyday.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: But that’s not something. But that’s not something that you probably were born with. You had to develop that, because otherwise you get pulled into one direction or the other. And that’s part of the messaging that we get, is you’ve got to pick a lane. You either kind of go down the Zen lane and just be satisfied, and that’s fine. Or work, work, work, graft, graft, graft. Until somehow you figure out that you’re enough, which I don’t think that’s a thing, whereas the emotional superposition probably says both can be true, that you can be both enough and satisfied, but also extremely hungry and able to do more. 

So I think the instilling of that in a workplace, in the ethos of a company, is probably helpful. I think one of the things that we’re looking at with the mood project is allowing a corporate version of that to exist, where people within the company can very easily share how they feel kind of at random points throughout the day, week, month, etcetera. And what that does is it creates a real time pulse for an organization.

So as opposed to employee surveys that will happen every six months or every year or whatever, we get a snapshot of some issues. What this does is it allows real pulse of an organization, and so people can start detecting. If there’s teams that are going to be prone to burnout soon because something’s not working there, then you can get that early warning system. And I think that’s the kind of thing that employers are probably going to start doing.

Sean O’Neill: So this would be an anonymous?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. So just in the same way that the app works, it’d be either an on screen kind of app or widget that happens either in your phone or your, your desktop or laptop, and then you can just very quickly share how you feel, put some context to it, and then that will be anonymously kind of collated for an organization. And because it’s kind of, you’d be prompted randomly. It’s not there to capture after certain events or before certain events. It’s there just to kind of have a real time.

Sean O’Neill: Would it give any tips or help the individual?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So the next bit of that would be there’s a resource state database that we’re building as well, which is all about anxiety management, confidence building, lots of things that are kind of applicable in the workplace, so that if someone wants to do a few modules on something and really develop a skill, then you can. Or if someone just needs kind of a five minute listen, I’m about to go into a meeting and I’m nervous. I just need to chill out and just plug into my computer and relax for a minute before I go in, then you can do that. 

And then the third level would be that we’ve got kind of a psychology element to it where companies can actually buy in some therapy and some coaching for employees if they want. So it’s kind of a one stop shop for emotional well-being in the workplace, which I think is going to be pretty much the standard and the norm for corporations over the next five or ten years. I think if there’s not a mental health element, kind of a mental wellbeing element to the workplace, then people are going to be lagging behind. That’s how I kind of see the next five or ten years.

Sean O’Neill: Also, I think the stats now is that there’s 20% to 25% of job vacancies that employers just can’t fill. I guess it goes right to the top, then, because the people who, the business owners and the MDs of these companies, they also need support because they must be under serious pressure as well.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah, I mean, every single person in the organizations are human and will experience human emotions. I think this is something that’s probably not talked about, is that being in the upper echelons of a company doesn’t protect you from severe stress, anxiety and doesn’t qualify you per se to be better at dealing with difficult times or difficult situations than someone else. 

And so, yeah, I think every single person in an organization will, at some point or other, benefit from upskilling in their kind of emotional literacy and navigating difficult emotions here. Would that kind of application be something that you’d be interested in for your organization potentially?

Sean O’Neill: So we’ve explored all angles to try and get our staff in the best possible position for themselves. That would be a great starter to get information and get to feel how people are. What I would also. What I also promote is face to face, where you can look somebody in the eyes and truly see how they’re feeling or truly understand. A bit like the — if they need a hug, if they need a conversation. I think that it works. I think it works well, both in tandem, because people can stay anonymous if they need to be anonymous, but they can also come forward and see someone in person.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Absolutely.

Sean O’Neill: So we are very proactive in looking at all possibilities of just doing the best as a human, not just to make sure the bottom line is better. We’re doing it because we care.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Absolutely. And that would be the point of the early warning system, would be it would alert a company that there is a problem and that they’d have to do something. It wouldn’t be that a company should outsource the solution, the mental health solution, somewhere else. If there’s a problem within a company that’s causing an issue, then highlighting that means that the company’s then kind of forced to do what you said and have a connection with someone.

Sean O’Neill: We talked about the stats before, about children, but surely if — The stats on this must be huge. So if most companies, I imagine, would have some sort of problem if that’s some issue to address.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: A couple of years ago, the WHO did a study and they was in the US, I think they found that lost productivity because of mental health difficulties was over a trillion dollars a year in companies. So it’s something that as an addressable market, is huge. And it’s about finding the balance of giving the companies enough information that they can do something with, but also equipping them with some resources that they can actually use and have their disposal for the employees. Because I think a lot of companies are probably worried that if they get into that, then it causes them a bigger HR headache than not knowing. 

But actually the evidence is quite the opposite. That if you start troubleshooting early on, you’re less likely to face long term sickness and burnout and all the other things that come with it. So it’s really about companies having an ethos to say we like to know so that we can be the best version of ourselves as a company.

Sean O’Neill: I read a report that over 80% of staff are disengaged. So it’s all them stats are definitely alarming. And I guess it’s down to the organization and the individuals there to pull together.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And I guess the value system is within an organization. And I think everyone needs to feel valued at some level. So everyone needs to feel listened to. Everyone needs to feel like actually the people I’m working with care about me. Otherwise it’s a very transactional relationship where I come in and do whatever the minimum is that I’m supposed to and then leave.

Sean O’Neill: And this is where I love to engage with people like you, because I see this as an opportunity for those people out there that are proactive or are willing to learn and be better. One of the things I tell any of my team or staff that there’s two things going to happen. You’re going to grow and evolve in my company or you’re going to leave. 

But I said, either way, do your very best and gain as much knowledge as you can. As long as you gain as much knowledge as you can while you’re under my umbrella. Because if you feel that someday you’ve outgrown our business, well, that’s well done to you. You’ve got the confidence and you’ve got the wings to fly and do your own thing. 

If you’re still valued and you’re somebody that we can’t afford to lose, then we’re going to go on that journey with you and we’re going to help you grow, and then you will be wherever you want to be within the company, you will then be able to say, right, Sean, time. Now you listen to me. I need to be your business partner. I need you to invest in me. I need whatever you need within the organization. So I always do my best to try and promote growth or whatever they see as being better for themselves. 

And the second thing is then other companies probably won’t be able to poach them, because if you’re able to look after your team and your staff to a really high level, people won’t want to leave you. And you end up then, as you say, productivity. Globally, a lack of productivity is poor. But I would say our productivity is really, really good because we see value in that. It’s just another way of investing in your business or investing in yourself, investing in your team, but it’s a very proactive way to do it.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And do you think that what you do is scalable? If you 10X the size of your business, could you still do it easily?

Sean O’Neill: Because I’m great at handing over jobs, I quickly try and find somebody that can take on the responsibility. And with that shared responsibility, with that shared responsibility, I then have a business partner, or I have somebody that is incentivized very well to take ownership, to take ownership of that new business, that new project. I’m definitely somebody who doesn’t want to have 100% of anything. I try to give as much as I can away that is fair, that that person feels that they’re valued or they have autonomy to be in charge of their own direction as well. 

I think it’s very, very important that people have autonomy, and it’s not me, because I can’t spread myself that thin, or else I would then. There has been times in the past that I’ve been the hindrance to the business because there’s been too much going on. So I love people doing well. It’s my driver for other people to do well. But it’s also possibly the recipe for how I’ve done so well, because I genuinely care about the success of others as much as I do myself.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And is that part your secret blueprint?

Sean O’Neill: Growing up on the farm again, my values and my lessons. Growing up on the farm, the farmers would never survive if they all stayed in their own house and worked the land individually. When it was time to bail the hay, milk the cows, do whatever they had to do, all farmers got together and they all helped each other. And everybody succeeded. Everyone survived. 

Now, if you go back into humanity, that’s how we all survived. We all survived. By helping each other. So I don’t think I’ve reinvented the wheel. I just think that I took the values of growing up unknowingly and kind of rebelliously tweaked them a bit, but stayed true to my values.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So do you think that because we’ve created a more individualistic society, the knock on effect has been that people aren’t as happy?

Sean O’Neill: I think the awareness of what is available. I read sapiens, and in the book sapiens, he talks about a colony of 50 people, but when that colony grows to 100, they split. And if there are only 50 people, then you’re only comparing yourself to those 50 people or those hundred people. But the problem now we have is that it’s so apparent that there’s. We’re comparing ourselves.

The problem we now have is we’re comparing ourselves to 8 billion people. So there’s no way I’m the most handsome out of 8 billion people. There’s no way I’m going to be the most wealthiest out of 8 billion people. I’m definitely not going to be happier. So our levels of awareness is just gone through the roof and then….

Dr. Hassan Yasin: But by the same token, we’re also told that we should try and be all of those things. The happiest. And the notion of self-care being, I think it’s one of the most damaging kind of messaging that we’ve had in recent years, is this idea that self-care is the most important thing that we should all do? Because it’s quite clear that what you’re describing is deriving meaning and value in your life, because other people around you have risen as a result of your actions. 

So it’s not just that you’ve made a load of money, and then you sat there and gone, oh, this is. This is great. What you’ve done is helped a load of other people rise, too. And that’s the bit that you’ve spoken about saying, look, this is the me. This is where. This is where I’m at. This is the meaning. This is why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I’m still doing what I’m doing. But if you were just thinking, all I need to do is make as much as I can and whatever, no one else matters because it’s about me and my self-care, then how satisfied would you be?

Sean O’Neill: It just wouldn’t happen. 

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Right. 

Sean O’Neill: And I’d be really unhappy if I ended up in that place.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. And maybe that’s kind of a word of warning to anyone that is on a journey like that is if you’re thinking that there’s some intrinsic satisfaction by reaching a material goal or, you know, kind of an arbitrary number or a figure or whatever, it doesn’t happen. Does it like that?

Sean O’Neill: Well, in inflation between, Warren Buffet talks about how a dollar is now only worth the equivalent to six cent. So inflation, if you had, if you have your goals, always move, and you have to be ready to move with the goals. And as you go into your different parts of your life, you have to be ready that what you wanted before is definitely not what you will want in the future. And that’s okay. 

I just think the goal of helping others succeed is something that can go through generations, can grow through as you get older, and then there’s a connection with human beings that if you, if you watch other people succeed, most of us, it’s the support, it’s the empathy, it’s the love. I think it’s our driver.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So shouldn’t that be the baseline? I guess as a motivation…

Sean O’Neill: It should be one thing that I’m not in the masses of. I don’t consume a lot of information. I don’t have access to daily social media, I don’t have access to, to daily news. I don’t have access to a lot of what goes on in the world.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Why is that?

Sean O’Neill: For my own mental health. I find that if I was to read the headlines or capture what’s going on without having a detailed understanding, I do find it’s a scary place to read headlines or to get snippets of information that you don’t really understand, because newspapers have to sell and the headlines are always terrifying. 

And in 2008, I realized that in 2008, when the property crash came, I was heavily affected. I was dazed from bankruptcy. And looking at those headlines terrified me. And maybe because I had no choice, I turned off the news, and I swore that I wouldn’t turn on another news channel again or I wouldn’t buy a newspaper again. And if I really wanted to understand something, I would study on it, I would focus on it, and I would get to the deep understanding of what that topic is, or so it’s protected me in a way, and then, so my world now is the world where it’s my close people and they feed me the information that I guess I need.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay, so what are you worried about? Like, news, like, you read news headlines and you get worried. What are you worried would happen to you?

Sean O’Neill: It would probably take up valuable time. It would fill my head full of information that wouldn’t be actionable then. And it would probably take up my time. That could be focusing on something better.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay, how do you know what’s better? I guess I’m wondering how, you know how to filter kind of the blanket filter of all information? Could that have a negative side effect of you actually missing out on ending up with information and drive to go in a different direction or to make a difference in a different way that you just miss out on because you’ve gone, well, I have to protect myself at all costs?

Sean O’Neill: I don’t think there’s any information that will flash up on a news channel. That means that I’m missing out. Books. I read a lot of books. I spend a lot of time with interesting people like yourselves, so I get deep into the understanding of a situation.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay. Okay. So would you say that you’re fairly kind of up to date with what’s going on in the world all the time, the current affairs and things like that?

Sean O’Neill: No.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Yeah. So how. I guess there’s a bit of a conflict there.

Sean O’Neill: What’s happened in recent years, and also, to be fair, what happened in 2008? If I had have gone along with the masses of people, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now as content, because a lot of the things that I did or thought or was able to prepare for was based on my intuition and me as a person not being told from an external party. And so I’ve kind of used my intuition and my support network to say, look, we’re here for each other. We’ll get through this together. And this worked.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Sure. And by no stretch am I saying that you should just believe anything that you. I’m just wondering what it is that it protects you from and kind of why it is that you feel that you need that protection. Because you’re clearly a competent and intelligent human that can kind of weigh up information and you’re well read and so on and so forth. So it’s interesting that there’s just this one area where you think, I need to shut this off, because I don’t know if I can.

Sean O’Neill: I like something that is actionable or deeply informative. And if you were to go down the route of news or daily social media, then news is okay. But if it’s just headlines, I’d like to get into the nitty gritty of not just the headliner or not. So I would then have to go down the rabbit hole of information. That’s fine. 

So if there’s a headline that property crash 2024, I won’t see that on the news, I will have studied or looked down the history of a property cycle where I believe we are now, maybe studied the history of interest rates and then took an overarching view of how I see the future. I won’t allow….

Dr. Hassan Yasin: That’s something that affects you, isn’t it? So that’s property and you’re into.

Sean O’Neill: Or business.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Or business. These are all things that kind of. But there’s plenty of other things in the world that probably don’t directly affect you. Conflicts, politics, everything.

Sean O’Neill: Everything affects all of us. We’re all entwined. I believe everything that’s going on does have an impact.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: So then again, coming back to it, why is it that you choose that there’s certain things that you need to protect yourself from?

Sean O’Neill: Probably overload of information.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Okay. And you said, because you want things that are actionable. So do you feel the need to always do something with information?

Sean O’Neill: I would feel that anything outside my front door means that I can’t take control of it or make action of it. If it’s inside my door of my office or inside the door of my house, I’m able to take action.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: And why? Are you worried about not having control of something?

Sean O’Neill: No, it’s probably just time. It’s probably just time thinking about something that I am unsure about the outcome. It wouldn’t say it’s worried. I just think that I could spend a lot of time trying something that the outcome was not within my. Even within my understanding. Because when you deal with things on a bigger scale, it becomes extremely complex.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Can be. Yeah.

Sean O’Neill: And maybe it’s because I’m more simple minded as an individual. I’m not sure the exact better way to describe it than that, but I actually think that maybe I haven’t got the capacity to deal with much larger things that I believe is multifaceted, completely out of my control, or I feel it’s out of my control, or maybe I’m not able to help.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: It’s interesting that you said that, because I think there is an overload of information coming in from social media, headlines, massive opinions, and it can be difficult to decipher all them. It can be difficult to figure out what’s true and what’s not. And like you said, it doesn’t mean that some things require some due diligence, some digging, some research to understand opinions. And I guess people, I’m similar age to you. 

So I think for people like you and me that grew up without kind of that in our lives, it is difficult sometimes to kind of have that wash of information constantly flowing at us. But it is by the flip side of that is having access to that level of information probably means that minds like yours and people that can have an impact in the world, probably, if that information is used in the right way, can use it potentially to make the world better rather than worse.

Sean O’Neill: Absolutely. And if that’s somebody’s path to go down that route, if you go back to the wellness side, I don’t think it’s healthy to be staring at a screen all day. I’m a big fan of getting outside, getting sunlight in the morning and sunlight in the evening. And that probably has another reason why I try and stay away from. I try and read books, I try not to look at screens. Inevitable. I have to because of my phone, because of, and because of the office environment I’m in. 

Even in here, we spent a few hours without any sunlight, so it could be another angle where I try to maximize my outside time. I’m not going to be able to go jogging or weightlifting and scroll through social media or look at news. So I’ve kind of developed my life as I see best place to have focus on my business, focus on my well-being, which is definitely time restricted with blue light. With digital devices.

Dr. Hassan Yasin: I probably spend way too much time with my screen. I like to read a lot too, but I consume a lot of information via video as well, which is a double edged sword because I can go down rabbit holes of information and found that suddenly I spent 2 hours researching a topic. So yeah, I think you’re right. It can be a double edged sword. And that does have knock on effects on kind of sunlight, health exercise, all that kind of stuff.

Sean O’Neill: After discussions with Pete Williams, who’s my health physician, I definitely am of opinion that health, wellness, human beings is the most complex business in the world and there is no answer. It’s completely individual. One, you might see two people that do almost identical things, but one slight tweak makes such a difference. And for me personally, I’ve just found a safer place I can be to keep me as optimized as I can be. I’d like to finish on you telling me more about your app. When are we going to see it?

Dr. Hassan Yasin: That’s a good question. 2024, hopefully mid 2024 was the aim for the launch. We have a Kraken team at the moment working on it. So we are hoping to launch in conjunction with doing sport events initially with a view to trying to get people to react to what’s happening in the world of sport. It’s something that people are quite accustomed to and happy to share how they feel when they go to football games, when they watch their favorite sport to take teams and have a bit of banter with opposing teams, too. So getting people kind of sharing how they’re feeling during sports games. 

And eventually what we’re going to have is while you’re watching football, you’ll see a mood meter on screen showing the mood in team A’s town versus team B’s town as a kind of live feed. And then going from there, we expand it out into everything else in the world, from work, news, world events, and let people really share how they’re feeling about everything, everywhere.

Sean O’Neill: Dr. Hassan, thank you very much for your time!

Dr. Hassan Yasin: Thank you so much for having me!